With warm weather comes looking forward to buying new bikinis and swim trunks, readying our outdoor patio furniture and — of course — dipping our toes into a pool of some kind.
It’s no surprise that in-ground pools cost a pretty penny to add to your backyard. Not to mention, a whole lot of upkeep. For a fraction of the cost, you can buy a quality above-ground pool from retailers like Amazon, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and more.
“Above-ground pools are a great way to get more bang for your buck in comparison to in-ground pools,” Ashley Murphy, fire and pool merchant at The Home Depot, told the New York Post. “They require less construction work, excavation and materials, which makes them a more budget-friendly option for families who want to have a pool in their backyard.”
While above-ground pools may be cost-effective, it’s important to consider other costs such as maintenance, accessories and safety measures when budgeting for an above-ground pool, she adds.
To put your backyard into full-gear for splish-splashing fun this summer, we turned to seasoned pool experts to hand-pick the 13 best above-ground pools of 2023, along with chiming in to our in-depth FAQ section — which pretty much covers everything you need to know about them, from care tips and assembly to outlining the different types on the market.
- Dimensions: 15 ft. x 48 in.
The Intex Easy Swimming Pool Kit is recommended by Murphy as a top brand to snag for your backyard. Specifically, this model boasts a 1000 gph filter pump, a 15-minute installation window (so quick!) and includes the following items: a pool cover, ground cloth, frame pool ladder and instructional DVD.
- Dimensions: 24 ft. (W) x 24 ft. (L) x 52 in. (H)
“Featuring a blue tile print and an elegant graphite exterior, this pool provides a beautiful look and feel that will complement any backyard,” Brian Shaunfield, store manager at Charlotte area Lowe’s told The Post. “A 2,800-gallon-per-hour sand filter pump, ladder, ground cloth and convenient pool cover are included.”
More, it’s equipped with a galvanized steel frame design (with a tough 3-ply PVC liner) that optimizes shape and weight distribution of pool for enhanced durability. Its easy-lock system, clad with T joints, simply snaps together for a quick assembly — no tools required.
- Dimensions: 15 ft. x 33 in.
Murphy recommends the Bestway Round Fast Set Paradise Palms Inflatable Swimming Pool Set to add a touch of resort-style charm to your backyard — with the easiest set up possible. Specifically, it features a durable DuraPlus liner that’s also enforced by a three-layer material for extra tension. The top ring has an inflatable palm tree that sprays water when connected to a garden hose to keep you refreshed all day, too.
- Dimensions: 9 ft. (W) x 18 ft. (L) x 48 in. (H)
“This pool is built with a steel frame that is held together with Bestway’s Seal and Lock System to provide remarkable strength,” Shaunfield explains. “It requires a very simple assembly and take-down process for off-season storage, with no tools required.”
Plus, it’s made with a TriTech-enhanced 3-ply PVC liner that provides a support band for additional stability to the pool wall for durability. Its mosaic print lines on the interior create an elegant look that blends with backyard aesthetics, too.
- Dimensions: 20 ft. x 48 in.
Murphy likes the Intex Ultra XTR Frame Round Swimming Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump for a quality above-ground pool that’s backed by nearly 6,000 rave reviews on Amazon. Namely, it’s applauded for being easy to install (even while it’s not a fast set, inflatable-style option) and an excellent value for the money. It even comes with a ladder, too.
- Dimensions: 16 ft. (W) x 16 ft. (L) x 48 in. (H)
“This above-ground pool features portholes built into the sides of the pool, allowing parents to keep an eye on their kids as they dip and dive underwater,” Shaunfield highlights. “Its natural-looking wood gran exterior print provides a classy look and feel to your backyard.”
This model features a realistic prismatic stone printing on the inner liner adds texture with a rich blue color bottom. It’s also built with a steel frame that’s held together with Seal and Lock System to provide remarkable strength and connection.
- Dimensions: 15 ft. x 48 in.
The Bestway Pro MAX Round Deep Metal Frame Above-Groun Swimming Pool is one of the best value above-ground pools on this list, and one Murphy particularly recommends. It comes with a pump and a cover for less than $600 and is accessible on Amazon and at The Home Depot alike.
If you’re seeking a hard-sided above-ground pool, this is a No. 1 Amazon best-seller, too.
- Dimensions: 12 ft. (W) x 12 ft. (L) x 30 in. (H)
“This pool requires a simple fill-and-rise setup process – just select a level surface, inflate the top ring and watch your above-ground pool rise as it’s filled with water,” Shaunfield instructs. “The attractive liner also features a realistic rattan print.
This budget-friendly above-ground pool features a DuraPlus enhanced 3-layer liner that’s reinforced to prevent punctures while providing ultimate durability and longevity. Upon purchase, you’ll receive a 330-gallon filter pump to ensure the pool water remains clean during the summer months as well.
- Dimensions: 16 ft. x 48 in.
Another metal-frame pool that’s expert-backed is the Summer Waves Elite Deep Metal Frame Above-Ground Pool, per Murphy’s recommendation. If you’re not looking to spend more than $1,000, then you’ll appreciate how this one comes fully charged with a SkimmerPlus Filter Pump System, coupled with positive ratings for (1) being easy to assemble and (2) having incredible suction power.
- Dimensions: 12 ft.(W) x 24 ft. (L) x 52 in. (H)
“This pool design is perfect for narrow backyards, swimming laps and pool games,” Shaunfield highlights. “A saltwater system, ladder, debris cover, ground cloth, protective canopy and a powerful sand filter pump are included with purchase.”
What’s more, it’s equipped with laminated PVC siding — with three separate material layers for strength and durability — and offers a fast and easy set-up; it can be ready for water fill in just 60 minutes.
- Dimensions: 24 ft. x 52 in.
As recommended by Murphy, the Blue Wave Martinique Deep Metal Wall Above-Ground Pool is worth the splurge — in fact, it’s the most expensive option on this list. However, it’s worth the money, thanks to its seven-inch top rails and verticals for extra durability. Its top connectors are crafted from resin for ultimate protection as well.
- Dimensions: 6 ft. (W) x 8.5 ft. (L) x 26 in. (H)
“This above-ground rectangular pool is great for swimming with family and friends or relaxing in the summer sun,” Shaunfield says. “With a durable frame and heavy-duty walls, this pool can hold up to approximately 800 gallons of water and can accommodate multiple people.”
Additionally, it installs quickly in just 30 minutes, with no tools required. Its I-frame metal provides strong support with a rust-resistant design for lasting use, too.
- Dimensions: 9 ft. (W) x 18 ft. (L) x 48 in. (H)
“Featuring an ultra-durable construction, this pool’s liner design is made of high-quality 3-layer materials reinforced for strength and to resist punctures,” Shaunfield says. “With reinforced, fortified portholes built into the sides of the pool, swimmers can wave as they pass by, and parents can easily keep an eye on kids as they dip and dive underwater.”
Impressively, this model is built with a steel frame that is held together with Bestway’s Seal and Lock System to provide remarkable strength and connection. Its natural-looking stacked stone exterior print provides a classy look and feel to your backyard as well.
An FAQ on Above-Ground Pools
Ahead, two pool experts from The Home Depot and Lowe’s give us the 411 on all things above-ground pools. Consider this your go-to cheat sheet ahead of the warmer months.
The benefits of having an above-ground pool, according to experts
Nothing beats a dip in the pool on a hot day! Typical in-ground swimming pools can be extremely costly, but fortunately, above-ground swimming pools can be a great alternative.
Above-ground pools offer many benefits, including:
- Affordability: Above-ground pools are generally more affordable than in-ground pools, making them a budget-friendly option for families who want to enjoy the benefits of a pool without breaking the bank.
- Ease of installation: Above-ground pools are also relatively easy to install, requiring minimal excavation and construction work.
- Mobility: Additionally, they can be placed in various locations in your backyard, giving you more flexibility in choosing the perfect spot for your pool.
“Additionally, many above-ground pools are easy to set up at the beginning of the summer season and take down for the fall and winter,” Shaunfield adds. “Depending on the size you’re looking for, above-ground pools are also relatively small compared to in-ground pools, meaning they can fit into tight backyard spaces.”
What to keep in mind as a homeowner when buying an above-ground pool, per experts
Any type of outdoor recreational addition comes with its own set of considerations you should keep in mind. “To begin, homeowners should review their HOA rules and restrictions as not all housing agencies permit private above-ground pools,” Murphy advises. “Next, consider that regular maintenance is essential to keeping your pool water clean and safe for swimming. This includes testing and balancing the water chemistry, cleaning the pool filter and skimming debris from the surface of the water.”
More, safety measures such as installing a pool fence, using a pool cover when not in use and providing proper supervision for children are crucial to preventing accidents. “Proper winterization and storage during the off-season are necessary to protect the pool from damage caused by freezing temperatures,” she adds.
According to Shaunfield, keep in mind that during the warm months, they do require regular maintenance – especially after parties, storms and especially high temperatures.
The different types of above-ground pools, explained by experts
There are three different types of above-ground pools homeowners can consider when looking to make the most of the warm weather, and our experts explained them all:
- Soft-Sided Pools: These are inflatable and take up less space and are easy to set up and disassemble faster than a framed pool.
- Metal Frame Pools: These provide excellent durability and a sleek finish. Plus, a galvanized steel frame with inner and outer powder coating provides powerful rust protection. Keep in mind that if you choose an aluminum frame at a higher price point, the overall weight of the pool will be reduced.
- Hard-Sided Pools: These are manufactured with all-steel, hot-dipped galvanized components, making them built to last. This pool frame integrates oversized injection molded resin top connectors and foot collars to add a touch of class and beauty.
How do I clean and maintain an above-ground pool?
“With some basic pool care principles, you can keep your pool clean and in tip-top shape – all you need are the right tools and equipment like test kits, a skimming pole, filters and the right water treatments,” Murphy assures.
Water circulation is key to a sparkling pool
You can’t get stagnant water clean no matter how many swimming pool chemicals you add. “Your pool pump should be set to run for a minimum of eight to 12 hours per day,” she adds — a recommendation Shaunfield stands by as well. “The best models work to force water through the pool filter system. They then push the clean water back into the pool.”
Filtration is also essential
Your pool filter removes debris suspended in the water, allowing pool chemicals to keep the water clean. “The three most common types of filters are sand, cartridge and DE filters,” Murphy explains. “Sand is the most popular filter. However, DE and cartridge filters are growing in popularity because they conserve more water and filter more efficiently.”
Skim debris, such as leaves and twigs, from the surface of the water using a pool skimmer or net. “One of my favorite pool skimmers is the HDX Swimming Pool and Spa Skimmer with 4ft. to 8ft. Telescoping Pole ($30). “For touch-up cleaning of those pesky floating leaves and debris, the telescopic skimmer is a one-piece unit that extends up to 8 ft. and collapses down to approximately 4 ft. 7 in. – or anywhere in between.”
Brush the pool walls and floor to remove algae and other buildup using a pool brush. “You can maximize your cleaning efforts with the HDX 18 in. Swimming Pool & Spa Brush with Deluxe Nylon and Stainless Steel Combination Bristles and Aluminum Back ($25),” she notes.
More, you should vacuum the pool to remove dirt and debris that may have sunk to the bottom of the pool. “Many above-ground pools are sold with a vacuum included, but if not, consider robotic pool cleaners; they can help make your pool maintenance easier. You can also rent a pool vacuum from a pool supply store or have a pool cleaning service handle the job for you.”
Maintain proper pool chemistry
Water balancing is essential for a well-maintained pool. Balanced water means that the pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness and chlorine levels are right. “Water balance changes constantly,” Murphy adds. “It’s affected by everything in the environment, including rain and sunlight. Experts recommend using a pool test kit like the HDX 5-Way Swimming Pool and Spa Test Kit ($20), available exclusively at The Home Depot, at least once a week.”
The five-way test kit tests for chlorine, bromine, ph, acid demand and total alkalinity. Each test ensures that your pool and spa water is safe not only for swimmers, but for the longevity of your pool’s finish and equipment.
As a pool owner, you’ll also want to shock the pool periodically to kill bacteria and other contaminants in the water. “A clean pool should be virtually odor-free,” Murphy explains. “When water has a strong chlorine odor, it turns cloudy and irritates the eyes. This is an indication of too much waste in the water and that shocking is necessary.”
Specifically, pool shock is a type of water treatment product that increases the chlorine level until it’s high enough to remove used chlorine and other wastes. “Dosage rates and benefits of shock can vary dramatically,” Murphy says. “Choose one that covers the water level of your pool.”
Sanitizing your swimming pool water makes it safe for swimming, too. “Sanitization is usually accomplished with chlorine tablets or liquid chlorine,” Murphy notes. “Quality chlorine tablets provide high levels of chlorine to protect the pool against bacteria and algae growth.”
Getting rid of algae in your swimming pool can be as simple as using a good algaecide as well — just remember to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. “When dealing with an algae problem, run the pump 24 hours a day until the issue is resolved,” Murphy recommends. “You’ll also want to clean the pool filter once the algae has been cleared up.”
Use a pool cover when the pool is not in use
A pool cover helps prevent debris from falling into the water, as well as protect your pool from UV rays and extend the life of the water.
The different types of water above-ground pools use, explained by experts
Saltwater, chlorine, well water, oh my! Our experts dish out the deets on the different types of water above-ground pools may run with, and their benefits.
“When it comes to filling your new pool, you have several options for the type of water you’d like included,” Shaunfield says. “For example, city water from your home provides a steady, reliable fill. However, because the billing for city water often includes sewage costs, it can get expensive.”
Well water is another option, although it will need more treatment than city water once your pool is filled. So, while the water may come at a reduced rate, you may pay more in chemicals and wait times, per Shaunfield.
“For those who want an above-ground saltwater pool, you can purchase a saltwater generator system; many are made specifically for above-ground pools,” he adds.
Above-ground pools can also be treated with various types of water sanitization methods, including chlorine or salt. “Chlorine is a common and effective sanitizer that helps kill bacteria and other contaminants in the pool water,” Murphy explains. “Saltwater pools use a salt chlorinator system to convert salt into chlorine, providing a more natural and lower-irritant alternative to traditional chlorine pools.”
How to assemble an above-ground pool, according to experts
“Assembling an inflatable pool is simple – it can sit nicely on almost any outside surface,” Murphy says. “All you need is a pump to inflate the pool to the correct size and in 10 minutes or less, you’re ready to fill the pool with water and start splashing!”
When inflating, make sure it’s near a water hose and a power supply, but away from trees or telephone wires.
“For steel-framed pools, more assembly is required on certain models, however the setup and take down process is still simple, and the pools can be ready in less than an hour,” she adds. “These pools pay off, as you will have more room in the pool to accommodate larger crowds and give you more room to swim laps, which an inflatable pool cannot do.”
Additionally, you’ll always want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure you’re assembling the pool properly. “After you’ve measured the space where you’d like to place the pool, prepare the ground surface by leveling it and ensuring it is free of rocks, roots and other debris,” she adds.
What size above-ground pool should I buy?
Above-ground pools are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, so it’s important to measure the area where you’d like to locate your pool.
“To get a feel for how your pool will fit into your yard, try using marking paint to draw up a perimeter,” Shaunfield suggests. “Be sure to take a walk around the border you created to make sure there’s ample room to move freely or add aesthetic enhancements.”
If your yard is narrow, a rectangular above-ground pool will likely serve you best, per Shaunfield. A square yard will work wonderfully with a round above-ground pool, too.
Can I buy a diving board for my above-ground pool?
No, no and no. “You should never install a diving board on an above-ground pool or attempt to dive in one head-first,” Shaunfield warns. “Above-ground pools are not deep enough and diving into one could lead to an injury.”
How long do above-ground pools last?
As with most things, the lifespan of an above-ground pool can vary depending on factors such as the quality of materials, maintenance and usage.
“On average, you’re looking at anywhere from 10 to 20 years with proper care and maintenance,” Murphy forecasts. “Regular maintenance, such as cleaning, water chemistry balancing and winterization, can help prolong the lifespan of the pool.”
It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for maintenance and care to ensure the longevity of your above-ground pool, too.
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